The Inclusion of Trigger Warnings in College Courses

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TheInclusion of Trigger Warnings in College Courses

Mostviewpoints have a mainstream perception and a counter to the popularbelief. The same concept applies to the courses that are taught ininstitutions of higher learning. Craig Klugman brings both thepositive and negative aspects of Trigger Warnings in college coursesto bear. He defines trigger warnings as notices that aware studentsof the issues that will be taught in class, and, by extension, givethem the opportunity to opt out of a class if the issues that will becovered are upsetting. Klugman also states that introducing triggerwarnings in college courses will downplay the essence of seekinghigher education. Instead of gaining all-encompassing knowledge,which would help students understand the issues that affect thembetter, students will only gain knowledge that supports theirunderstanding of particular concepts.

Triggerwarnings may help students avoid the consequences that are associatedwith traumatic events. Trigger warnings were introduced in the onlinecommunity by the survivors of sexual assault (par., 2). Theassumption was that survivors might re-experience their own traumaafter reading the accounts of other people`s trauma. Thus, thetrigger warnings prevent such occurrences by acquainting people withinformation of the content that they will be exposed to, giving theman opportunity to opt out of reading such material. The same concepthas been proposed for university courses. Students are arguing thatthe material that their instructors are exposing them to isupsetting thus, information on the content of a course, before alecture, would help students avoid mental distress (par., 3).According to a 2006 survey, on the effects that an ethics class hason students, students rarely change their positions on their values(par., 6). Thus, introducing students to concepts that they areuncomfortable learning about does not better or change their views onthese issues.

Triggerwarnings may also help students develop critical analysis skills, asopposed to the widespread belief that it will give students an easyescape from difficult subject matters. By advancing information onthe contents of a course, trigger warnings will help students gaininterest in understanding what the course will cover (par., 4). Suchinterest will help students learn how to gather information fromvarious sources to determine whether or not the contents of thecourse are in tandem with their personal beliefs. In addition,students will also gain a profound understanding of their views ofthe world, and whether such an understanding is correct (par., 7).Since students will be allowed to opt out of particular classes(par., 1), they will be interested in developing an understanding ofwhy their positions on specific issues are important. Thus, studentswill develop an interest in researching more about their position,and, in the end, develop critical research and analysis skills.

Triggerwarnings may also help instructors get better insights into how theirstudents’ respond to the concepts that they learn in class. Byintroducing trigger warnings to courses, teachers will be in aposition to understand why students are uncomfortable with theteaching of particular concepts. Klugman, for example, states that astudent in his physician-assisted suicide class expressed herdisproval of suicide (par., 6). The student contended that “she wasmorally opposed to suicide.” Thus, deducing from this standpoint,students will want to know why suicide is immoral, as opposed to justassuming such a position. Also, students will be placed ideally toexpress their opinions, regarding particular concepts, to theirinstructors (par., 1). Such avenues will enable lecturers tounderstand what they can do to better the learning experience oftheir students. Nonetheless, even though the introduction of triggerwarnings in schools has numerous benefits, various costs areassociated with the implementation of such a concept in colleges.

Tobegin with, trigger warnings may shield students from exposure toproblematic situations.The premise behind the implementation of &quottrigger warnings&quotin institutions of higher learning is shielding students from issuesthat may trigger traumatic events or protect them from the conceptsthat they consider upsetting (par., 1). However, such an approachwill prevent students from getting the skills that will help themcope with issues. For example, the assertion that the novel TheGreat Gatsbyshould be banned because of the ill-treatment that women receive isnot well-founded (par., 5). By avoiding such a class, a student maynot develop a profound understanding of the plight of women and whythey deserve humane treatment. In the end, such a student will onlyview things from his perspective, but lack substantial knowledge forviewing issues from his position. Nonetheless, the students’argument regarding the implementation of trigger warnings ininstitutions of higher learning is that the upsetting material is nothelpful to them, and, thus, they should be given the option of nothaving to attend such a class (par. 1). The 2006 survey supports thisargument by asserting that the positions of students rarely changebecause they are introduced to concepts that run counter to theirpersonal values (par., 6). Thus, implementing trigger warnings willhelp these students affirm their views better, as opposed to assumingthat trigger warnings offer students an easy way out of difficultsituations. Triggerwarnings may also prevent students from gaining insights that mayprove their positions wrong or irrelevant.Klugman contends that one of his students expressed her disproval ofthe assertions that were forwarded by the physician-assisted suicideclass (par., 6). However, this student could not articulate why shewas against physician-assisted suicide. Klugman posits that theprimary objective of higher education is to advance criticalthinking, which helps students question their own beliefs (par., 7).According to the American Association of University Professors,introducing trigger warnings will only lead to the development of achilly and repressive climate that will impede critical thinking inclass (par., 10). Thus, as opposed to the notion that students willdevelop better analytical and research skills, students will onlyseek information that supports their understanding of the world anddisregard the information that does not back their assertions. Such aviewpoint illustrates the retrogressive nature of trigger warnings.However, as much as gaining knowledge of the different aspects of aconcept helps students develop a well-rounded understanding ofspecific issues, some of this knowledge may be more harmful thanbeneficial. For example, if a student firmly believes that suicide iswrong, trying to change his belief that suicide is not a bad thingwill only distress him further. Thus, including trigger warnings insuch a situation will help the student avoid such a class and theanxiety that is associated with the premises advanced by the contentthat the class forwards. Lastly,trigger warnings may prevent instructors from imparting criticalknowledge on their students.According to Klugman, trigger warnings downplay the significance ofliberal arts classes (par., 7). Thus, as opposed to givinginstructors the opportunity to understand why students do not likegaining knowledge on particular issues, trigger warnings will preventlecturers from helping their students figure out why theirperceptions or positions on specific topics may not be well-founded.For example, Klugman illustrates a case of one of his students whowas opposed to physician-assisted suicide (par., 6). The student onlybelieved that suicide was morally wrong, but could not articulate whyher standpoint was correct. Introducing trigger warnings would,therefore, give such a student the opportunity to opt out of such aclass, which may be critical in her line of work in the future.Nevertheless, imparting knowledge that does not appeal to the logicof students is somewhat regressive. Reason being, the students willnot have an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of theconcepts that are advanced by particular courses (par., 7). Triggerwarnings help students to find ways of asserting their positionsbetter, in addition to helping them articulate why things should beas they believe, and not as the class content or their instructorsassume. Also, by introducing trigger warnings, instructors will gaina better understanding of how to develop a learning system that isbetter suited to the needs of their students and the changing world.

Ina recap of the above discussion, Craig Klugman brings both thepositive and negative aspects of Trigger Warnings in college coursesto bear. He states that trigger warnings could help students avoidthe consequences that are linked with traumatic events, developcritical analysis skills, and enable instructors to get a betterunderstanding of how the students feel about the concepts that theylearn in class. Nevertheless, he also introduces the downsides oftrigger warnings. Klugman contends that trigger warnings may shieldstudents from getting the requisite skills to solve problems, preventstudents from gaining insights that may prove their positions wrongor irrelevant, and may prevent instructors from imparting criticalknowledge on their students. However, in spite of all thecounter-arguments presented in Klugman’s article, the responses tothese arguments reveal that trigger warnings would lead to thedevelopment of a better learning experience in colleges, as discussedabove.


Klugman,Craig. &quotTrigger Warnings on College Campuses Are Nothing ButCensorship. Medium.N.p., 2015. Print.